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Cheryl started her career in child nutrition in 1975 after she received her degree in Early Childhood Development and was hired as the Director of a child care center participating on the CACFP. This is where her passion for child nutrition flourished leading to her long and distinguished career. In 1979 she started working in Burlington, IA with Community Action of Southeast Iowa, where she sponsored home providers on the CACFP. The agency has grown to now sponsoring 82% of area eligible home providers and two centers in her three decade’s with Community Action.
In 1984 she received an invitation to attend a meeting with other like-minded Sponsors who wanted support to improve child care nutrition practices. After a couple of years of discussion and brain storming this group created the Midwest Child and Adult Care Food Program Sponsors’ Association. Although The Sponsors’ Association initially started in the midwest, Cheryl’s support along with the other founding members made it possible to help Sponsors of homes and centers all over the country by forming the The National CACFP Sponsors’ Association.
Cheryl’s accomplishments are vast and in a variety of different areas. She has said that working for Community Action of Southeast Iowa has allowed her to “wear many hats.” Her CACFP Director duties include managing the budget, leading group trainings for providers, creating menu and physical activities for children, and writing newsletters for parents and providers. She also manages a Family Support Home Visitation program and provides nutrition information and trainings for parents.
Her day- to-day activities are busy enough but she also has served on numerous committees as well. She has served on the Board of Directors as Secretary, Membership Chair and Conference Coordinator. She made sure the annual conference location was convenient and affordable; the speakers were informative and engaging; and of course planned yummy meals and networking receptions. Despite all the hard work she enjoys the conferences because “it brings Sponsor’s together and connects the CACFP community.” In 2012 when she no longer was responsible for planning the conference and was able to enjoy it as a participant she was recognized for all her hard work and dedication to the Sponsors’ Association by receiving the National CACFP Sponsors Association Friend of CACFP Award. “It was exciting to get recognized for something I have been passionate about my whole life,” said Cheryl.
As a Board Member she has always fought for the smaller Sponsors to make sure they got the training and support they needed to be successful. While at conferences or at board meetings the information Cheryl learned would always make it back to Iowa where she shared it with the other Sponsors in her state.
When asked her favorite aspects of the job Cheryl said, “It’s when the light goes on for the children and they develop healthy life long healthy eating habits; being able to help all families receive nutritious meals and snacks for their children when they are away from home; seeing providers who have been on the program for 15-20 years trying new recipes; and best of all, watching children engage in trying in new foods.”
Cheryl believes “nutrition is the key to building strong families,” and because of her years of outstanding service, there are many strong families not only in Iowa but all over the country.